HRN1 - Community Engagement Feedback and Findings

By Alan D Winter, editor Houghton Regis News Desk

Feedback from consultations with local people has been added to the planning files as part of the conditions for Outline Planning permission for HRN1.

The Houghton Regis Management Company (HRMC) (the promoters of the HRN1 site – formerly known as the Houghton Regis Development Consortium (HRDC)), carried out community engagement as part of the formulation of the Site-Wide Masterplan and Site-Wide Design Code during December 2017 to March 2018.

Outline planning permission for HRN1 was granted on 2nd June 2014 – number CB/12/03613/OUT. A number of planning documents were added to the case in June 2018. These include Site Wide Master Plan (SWMP), Site Wide Design Code (SWDC) and Statement of Community Engagement (SCE).

The documents comprehensively show how HRMC communicated with and engaged with local residents, and the comments made have been responded to in a 96-page document which can be read online.

There is no provision for a cemetery on site. There is no provision for a place of worship on site.

A request for vehicular access along the southern boundary of the site to Tithe Farm Road - to benefit integration.
HRMC reply: "From a design and plan perspective it is generally agreed that this is undesirable..."

Concerns over connectivity
HRMC reply: "The outline planning permission granted in 2014 established the principle that vehicle access would not be via the existing residential areas of Tithe Farm and Parkside. The bus gate access adjacent to Tithe Farm primary is all that is permitted, with associated pedestrian and cycle access."

A request to build an area for “extreme sports” – mountain biking, skateboarding etc.
HRMC Reply: "No. We don’t consider this to be complementary to the development scheme and the open spaces to be provided"

Request for provision of market/flexible space for pop-up events/activities.
HRMC reply: "Noted and agreed"

Concern about the need for two new road bridges over Houghton Brook. Bridges upset wildlife ecology of rivers and attract people who drop rubbish into streams.
HRMC reply: "The additional bridge over the Houghton Brook would be designed to minimise its width and allow for the passage of wildlife beneath. The brook itself would be subject to management which would include activities not currently undertaken such as collection of litter and management of bankside habitats."

Concerns about LIDL warehouse.
HRMC reply: "LIDL will submit a separate area masterplan for their site which will detail the site layout."

Query over the location of pitches in relation to the location of Dunstable Rugby Club.
HRMC reply: "Providing a connection with the Rugby Club is a key consideration. HRMC believes that the current location of the sports pitches is preferential to moving them adjacent to the rugby club, however, we will continue to look at options for walking and cycling connections between HRN1 and the Rugby Club."

Concern over housing designs.
HRMC reply: "We have taken on board the comments in relation to the need to have a mix of properties on site. The Design Code, will propose a broad palette of design rules, character and materials."

Concerns over housing types.
HRMC reply: "A minimum of 10% affordable housing will be included across the site. 100 self-build properties will also be included."

Concerns over housing density and amount of Green Space.
HRMC reply: "the density of the scheme will vary throughout. Areas closer to the existing residential edge and the retail and main street are likely to be higher density. Lower density areas will be delivered in the North West areas of the site towards the open countryside. The development has extensive open space provision - 30% of the site."

Concerns about Tithe Farm Primary School.
HRMC reply: "At present, we do not know exactly how the extension land at Tithe Farm Primary will be used, this detail will come forward under a separate planning application."

Concerns over Primary Schooling.
HRMC reply: "HRN1 will provide 3 new primary schools across the site"

A question on secondary school education.
HRMC reply: "Our S106 obligation is to make a financial contribution towards secondary school provision on the Kingsland Campus and/or All Saints Academy. The first payment is on the occupation of the 750th dwelling"

Concerns over GPs.
HRMC reply: "The outline planning consent includes the provision of two new GPs surgeries, each with space for up to 4 GPs, which are to be marketed for commercial use... we are considering including one of the two surgeries, within the first phase of development."
"As the developer, we are unable to staff the GP practices ourselves, our financial contributions are transferred to the NHS who then provide the services."

Some wider concerns went unanswered. This includes traffic congestion on Bedford Road, queuing to enter Poynters Road roundabout and Sandringham Drive/Park Rd North roundabout, and funding for Houghton Regis Chalk Pit. In fairness to HRMC, many of these non-answered issues are outside the scope of the development area and are issues for our local politicians to resolve.

In the 96 page document that can be read online, many more questions are answered.

A statement in the document reads, "HRMC would like to thank the local community for its support and for the high level of engagement in the planning process.
The plans are the produce of many years of work by an experienced and dedicated project team who are committed to delivering a development that complements the existing town, and raises the whole area. The development will also go a long way to help meet local housing need."

Within the scheme area new residents and the existing local community can expect:

Bidwell Park: A major new community park incorporating multi-functional play area, sports pitches, new woodland habitat, enhanced habitat in the Ouzel Brook corridor, cycle and pedestrian routes.

Beech Hanger: A beech and yew woodland corridor on the steepest slopes of the site creating a miniature ‘Chiltern scarp’. The Hanger will establish new habitat, walking routes across the site, and help define the development’s local Chiltern character.

Green Park: A local park serving the Greens and Squares development character area. The park is directly adjacent to the existing Thornhill Lower School (off-site) to the south and links to the new local centre to the north. It will include sports pitches, a play area, cycle and pedestrian routes.

Woodside Park: A major park incorporating wetland habitats and ponds, woodland, screening to the M1, sports pitches and play areas. The park incorporates a National Cycle Network route which follows the Houghton Brook Corridor. Parts of the park serve as flood water storage areas to protect parts of Luton.

Chalton Gate Park: Either side of the main approach road to the development, the park will be a distinctive and unique sculptural landscape of land-form and water, as well as providing recreational uses, play area and sports pitches and habitat.

A5 Corridor: Principally a corridor for wildlife and ecological interest, featuring the Ouzel Brook, swales, ponds, and extending the existing woodland to screen the A5 and create additional woodland habitat. The corridor will also incorporate local play areas, community gardens, pedestrian and cycle routes.

All planning documents relating to the scheme can be found online on the CBC public portal. including the newly added Design Code. More information at the HRN1 website.

There is an informal Planning Applications Group on Facebook associated with Houghton Regis News Desk.